Inside the Capitol

Thursday, February 07, 2008

2-11 Sir Tom Banavides Is Back In Politics

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE – Filing day for statewide and federal offices is Feb. 12 and Sir Tom Benavides is back on the political scene, this time, running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.
That's great news in my business. In these days of bland politicians, who conduct polls to assure they don't offend anyone, Benavides is pure fun.
He's the guy with the distinctive eye patch, whom we can thank for pari-mutuel mule and ostrich racing and for his numerous efforts to establish a Benavides County in Albuquerque's South Valley. Fifteen years ago, Benavides was named to the order of King Alfonso X, the only U.S. citizen to be accorded such an honor, recognizing individuals who have advanced the Spanish culture.
Benavides began years ahead of time promoting New Mexico's observation of the 1992 Columbus quincentennial celebration. During that period he made many contacts with the Spanish government and traveled to Spain.
It was during a reception for the Spanish Ambassador in Albuquerque that Benavides made an appearance when the State Police were looking for him to complete a call of the Senate in Santa Fe. The following morning Benavides explained to the Senate that he actually had been in his Senate seat the previous evening, but he had had an out-of-body experience in Albuquerque.
Over the years, Benavides has won and lost a seat in the New Mexico House and twice won and lost a seat in the Senate. And his political career began as a justice of the peace.
He did all of this as a Democrat, but at one time he ran as an independent for Sen. Jeff Bingaman's seat in the U.S. Senate. He also has competed for Green Party and Reform Party positions. Most recently, he ran as a Republican for the state Senate seat he lost to Sen. Linda Lopez eight years earlier.
Republicans normally do very poorly in the Albuquerque South Valley, so Benavides didn't do well. But he never gives up
Benavides last fell from grace 12 years ago following the culmination of his six-year effort to establish a new county for Albuquerque's South Valley. Many residents of the area felt they had been short-changed by Bernalillo County.
Wanting to attract attention to his effort, Benavides jokingly referred to the new county as Benavides County and even talked about county offices being housed in the compound he and his extended family call home.
The senator knew the new county would never be named after him because there were other senators, representatives and a county commissioner from the South Valley, but Tom was a master at knowing exactly what the media liked to cover and Benavides County fit the bill.
Sir Tom was successful on three occasions in passing a bill calling for a South Valley referendum on a new county. But Gov. King kept vetoing the measure, citing a lack of tax base in the new county.
But when Gary Johnson challenged King's bid for another term, Benavides threw in with Johnson and promised him South Valley support. Johnson won. Benavides got his bill through the Legislature once again. And Gov. Johnson signed it.
Unfortunately there wasn't a happy ending to the story. Benavides lost the 1996 primary to Linda Lopez and then in November, the referendum for a new county lost by a 4-1 margin. But Benavides wasn't disturbed. That was only one of the many battles he has lost. The war is still to be won. "Just like Gen. Douglass Mac Arthur," he said, "I'll be back."
Tom always did have a way with words. And besides, his Spanish award entitles him to be addressed as "The Most Excellent Sir Tom Benavides." Although maybe not in the South Valley.
So now Sir Tom is off on another quixotic adventure, taking on U.S. Reps. Steve Pearce and Heather Wilson for the seat Sen. Pete Domenici is vacating. Benavides says this one will be easy.
MON, 2-11-08

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



Post a Comment

<< Home